If there’s one hit single that best epitomises hairspray rock, it’s Europe’s The Final Countdown. Released in 1986, it sold more than 7 million copies worldwide and catapulted the Swedish quintet to the top of the charts in over 25 countries.

33 years on, following an 11 year break, Joey Tempest and band are back on tour with their 9th studio album – Bag of Bones – and are every bit as rock as they were in the 80s.

Renowned for appointing a different producer for each of their albums, Tempest and co have enlisted the help of Kevin Shirley (Journey, Black Stone Cherry and Iron Maiden) for their latest offering and have described it as their most honest work to date.

Victoria Dillingham of Music News caught up with Swedish frontman, Joey Tempest mid tour and ahead of their London gig at Shepherd’s Bush in December.

Music News: How has the European tour gone so far?

Joey Tempest: It’s been great, it's going really well. We’ve been trying out new songs from the album, around 5-6 from Bag of Bones. And we now do something new, an acoustic set in the middle of the set, which has been really well received.

MN: Bag of Bones is Europe’s 9th album and you’ve described it as your ‘rawest’ and ‘most honest’ album to date. Why's that?

Joey: I think it’s a real touring band’s album. We worked on it with Kevin Shirley (who’s worked with the likes of Iron Maiden and Journey) and it came together in just one month. We did a lot of takes and produced lots of tracks. At the end of it we were surprised with how great it was and all agreed on what we liked best and what songs would make the album. We would never have been able to do things in this way years ago. It just came so natural to us and is us being as honest as we can be with our music.

MN: What tracks from the new album are going down best so far on tour?

Joey: As I say, we’ve been playing lots of songs from the latest album. Demon Head has been really well received. Bag of Bones also goes down well, and Doghound, people seem to really like that one.

MN: The music scene, particularly the rock scene, is a completely different place to what it was when you first started out as a band over 30 years ago. How has this affected you as a group and what impact has it had on your music?

Joey: The music business is very different, it’s changed so much. I think the biggest change is that power is back with the artist. Through websites and social media, bands and artists are able to take control of their music again in the business sense. If you’re a decent rock band you can do some serious damage. Record companies are having to be more careful than ever with their money, which is hard on new bands starting out with little experience or confidence to do it themselves. The live music scene is healthy and moving. Records used to be the indication of a band’s success. Records are still important, but touring and merchandise is key now. The power of the business is in the hands of the artist.

MN: More and more bands seem to be taking a break now. How hard is it to make a comeback like Europe have after 11 years off?

Joey: I think bands shouldn’t ever be afraid to take a break when they need it. When you’re on tour and doing well, it can be too easy to say ‘yes’ to everything and you can see that now with bands like King of Leon. But if you tour too much and are together too much, it can cause you to burn out both creatively and with each other as a band. You don’t want to burn out or fall out.
When we went on a break in 1992 the guys went on tour with other artists and I did a solo album and studied lyrics. When we got back together we were able to fuse all of our experiences over the years. But it does take time when you decide to make a comeback. This is our fourth album since we reformed and we’re now starting to get some really good reviews of our work.

MN: Do you see the same people at your gigs? Do you still have a hardcore following? Or are you now starting to see some new faces and attract new fans.

Joey: We do have a hardcore following which we’re really proud of. They put a lot into coming to our shows and bring a hell of a lot of energy to them. But we’re also starting to see some new faces as younger people start to discover and enjoy our sound. And I think the latest album, Bag of Bones has been instrumental in that. We’re really pleased.

MN: There’s no doubting the global success of The Final Countdown. It must be hard to better a single that has now become a worldwide rock anthem. If you could turn back time, would you wish it any lesser success, because of this?

Joey: We wanted a really special opener for one of the tours back then. We nearly went for Rock of the Night . But The Final Countdown stood as being so different from the rest of the songs. We took a chance and it paid off. We genuinely had no idea it would be as big as it was. It now has a whole life of its own. We still love it.

MN: Do you ever get sick of playing it?

Joey: Not playing it no. It’s not a song I listen to all the time. But we always get asked to play it, and play it at all of our gigs. We’re still proud of it and wouldn’t change things.

MN: The 80s was such an exciting time to be in a rock band and Europe was in the thick of it. How do you think it compares with the rock scene now and bands out today?

Joey: I listen to rock music now and the bands that excite me most are those who are channelling the darker side of the 70s, such as Gothenburg band The Graveyard. They stir things up. And Rival Sounds are another great band who are flying the torch for 70s and doing it well. But you’re right, it has changed. If you go to US and LA now it’s not full of the hard rockers like it used to be. What’s deemed as ‘rock’ has now changed in the broader media. But hard rock is still very much alive and kicking as you’ll see reported in magazines such as Classic Rock. The mass media tend to follow trends and be slightly more fickle in what they cover and write about.

MN: As a band you’ve talked about being influenced by the likes of Think Lizzy, Led Zeppelin and UFO. When you’re home and not on tour, what bands and music do you listen to and feel influenced by now?

Joey: Joe Bonamassa, Rival Bands and The Graveyards are what I’ve been listening to lately. I look for the deeper expression in music. I’m not really into the new young kids doing the 80s stuff.

MN: You’ve got a number of dates coming up in the UK, starting with Birmingham first. And you’re in London at Shepherd’s Bush on Saturday December 1st. What can your UK fans expect from the show?

Joey: Our lighting engineer has worked with us for years and he’s put together some really cool stuff for these shows. If you haven’t seen us before you can expect it to be loud and dynamic. There’s a really cool part of the show where we all sit together in the centre of the stage for an acoustic session. We follow this up with lots of big classics, which makes for an all round rock show.

MN: What can we expect from Europe after the tour and in years to come?

Joey: In 2013 we’ll be touring more with Bag of Bones and in 2014 we plan to release our 10th album. That’ll be 5 albums from us in the 80s and 90s and 5 over the following two decades. We'll be happy with that.

Europe's new album "Bag of Bones" is released by earMusic. Europe's “Bag of Bones” UK tour starts November 21 at the Birmingham o2 Academy. Very special guest on all date is StoneRider. Box Office: 0844 477 2000, Book tickets online from: www.eventim.co.uk, www.seetickets.com, www.ticketweb.co.uk.Further info: www.europetheband.com.

UK Tour Dates
Birmingham O2 Academy (Nov 21)
Glasgow O2 ABC (Nov 22)
Manchester HMV Ritz (Nov 23)
Newcastle O2 Academy (Nov 25)
Leeds O2 Academy (Nov 26)
Nottingham Rock City (Nov 27)
Bristol O2 Academy (Nov 29)
Cardiff Coal Exchange (Nov 30)
London O2 Shepherds Bush Empire (Dec 1)